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Critical Witnessing, Critical (In)visibility: Women Minding Their Own Business in Uganda

Caroline Tushabe


In this essay, I analyze steps Uganda has taken to close the gender gap by promoting gender equality and ratifying the treatyConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). I argue for critical witnessing as a practice utilized by women in rural areas in Kanungu district, Uganda, to negotiate power, redefine gender boundaries in their relation to Ugandas state policies, and HIV/AIDS issues with their partners. I take critical witnessing as a process in which women transcend and transform the almost impossible economic realities consequent of gender inequalities. Like most countries in Africa, Uganda has attempted to implement Affirmative Action by designating a quota system to include women in political leadership at all levels of political governance. However, the quota system produced a kind of representation that is metaphorically standing for and not acting for womens cause (Tamale, 1998: 1). The standing for approach is a vertical (top-bottom) approach characteristic of male-centered hierarchies. It cushions male-domination and safeguards gender inequality. The practice of critical witnessing by rural women in Uganda shows that ten years later, a representative that acts for women is still a dream. While I aim to analyze how rural women in Uganda juggle gender boundaries and HIV/AIDS issues with their partners, I emphasize womens judiciousness to collectively change what is perceived from bottom-up and not from top-down while taking advantage of culturally open-ended gender perceptions that enable them to create possibilities beyond gender boundaries.


Uganda; Women; Rural Women; HIV/AIDS; Family; Gender Inequalities; Discrimination Against Women; Poverty; Witnessing

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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